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Social Media Marketing Controversy #1: Zappos

August 5, 2009

zapposIf you’re a regular reader of social media blogs, you probably noticed that Zappos along with Comcast and Dell are frequent references for success stories in social media.

As for Zappos, they are usually praised for the way they interact with consumer in twitter ( Twitterific ubiquity) and provide superior customer experience.

This is clearly a brilliant use of social media technology but – this is the point I would like to make – I wonder whether this is what is meant by the  social “revolution” in marketing.

So, one of the key Zappos differentiator  is its incredible return policy (365 day/ free).  I know people (and you find testimonials on the net ) that order many pair of shoes, keep them for a while and then return it at no charge.

This is very convenient … but if you look at it from a different prospective:

1- it’s a waste of planes, trucks, fuel, storage area at a time where we are all suffering from major environmental issues.

2- it rewards a consumer behavior that’s not social responsible.

3- it has no community component into it, whether it be on defining the offer or the message around the offer.

4- the offer is generic. This is still a good old day one size fits all ( one size fits all, talking about shoes, isn’t that funny lol) . Diverse communities ( moms, fashionistas, green, frugals) would probably come up with different things they value when buying shoes, opening plenty opportunities for purple cows. ( There are some dedicated Zappos blogs – with almost no participation- bringing  some community flavor but not showing a real attempt to embed conversations into Zappos strategy )

So to me, “this is not change but more of the same”.

Here is an extract from an  interview of  Zappos Ceo

It depends on how much you and your daughter-in-law talk about Zappos to your friends and family. Obviously if you are returning every single shoe you order, then we’re losing money on that specific transaction. But our hope is that it’ll still be such a great experience for you, that you’ll tell your friends and family about Zappos. So rather than feel bad about it, instead just think spread the word about Zappos and think of that as your way of paying us back for the extra expenses”

So, here is what I would suggest as a real social media marketing program – while allowing Zappos to stick with its current competitive advantage:

  • Build a consumer education program on this topic
  • Use as a benchmark the total $ amount that was spent in 2008 in support of the return policy
  • Invest the savings in technology for better selection, and whatever helps inventing a more environmental friendly e-commerce.
  • Make is a shared program between  Zappos and communities ;  broadcast the savings, make the program viral , transform mom’s communities  and green bloggers into program advocates; tailor and customize the program to fit communities specific needs.
  • Even better, ask these communities to co-design the program; crowd source ideas and invent with consumers and communities alternative models for ultimate consumer experiences … that are more environment friendly.

This would also bring wonderful content to share in twitter and I’m convince it would pay back.

At the end of the day, what this means is more options for the consumer to be social responsible along with an opportunity to participate in  innovation in e-commerce.

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